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DISCOURSE V. Of the Principles and Evidences of Mahomet
anism compared with those of Christianity.
They are of the world: therefore
speak they of the world, and the world beareth them.-Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. 1 John iv. 5.
As things are set in the clearest light by means of contrast, or a comparison with their opposites, I propose in a series of difcourses to compare the conduct of Mahomet, with respect to his pretended divine mission, with that of Jesus. And as very few Christians have given much attention to the subject of Mahometanism, which, at this distance from the professors of it, does not obtrude itself upon us, it is probable that the difference between the conduct of Mahomet and that of Jesus, being a circumstance but little known, may strike fome persons with
Unbelievers must see that these two men conducted themselves in a very
different manner, and therefore that they must have acted on different principles, and have had a different consciousness with respect to their pretensions; and therefore, that if one of them was an impostor (as Mahomet in this part of the world is universally acknowledged to have been), the probability is, that the other was not.
All, however, that I would say is, that the confideration of the history of Mahomet furnishes a probable argument, of the internal kind, for the truth of the Christian religion; the history of Jesus with respect to the promulgation of his religion having been the reverse of that of Mahomet. Also as but few, either of unbelievers in Christianity, or of Christians, give themselves the trouble to read the Koran, I shall produce pretty copious extracts from it, that you may form a better idea of this celebrated work than can be given by any description of it, or any account of its contents in other words than those of Mahomet himself. The translation I shall make use of is that of Mr. Sale,
which no person will suspect to be unfavourable to the original.
With respect to the character and disposition of Mahomet, very extravagant things have been advanced both in favour of him, and against him; but I think it is not very difficult to hit upon a pretty just medium between them, and one that will account for all the facts in his history. He was evidently a man of considerable natural ability, and had much in his person and address to recommend him. He had also, I doubt not, originally a serious turn of mind, and for the greatest part of his life was not addicted to any irregular indulgence. He was never charged with intemperance in eating or drinking; and though at the age of twentyfive he married a widow of forty, he lived with her to the age of fifty without being suspected of any commerce with other women; and all the children he had, except one, was by her. It was not till he had acquired a considerable degree of power that he yielded to the impulse of lust or cruelty, from which hardly any person of much consequence in the East ever was exempt. Had he never attained to this degree of power, he would probably have preserved through life a character for religious austerity and mortification, which seems to have been all that he originally aimed at.
Mahomet was trained both to commerce, and the art of war, under one of his uncles; and he learned something of the state of the neighbouring countries in two journeys to Syria, performed in caravans, such as are used for the same purpose to this day. In his second journey he visited, and had some interviews with, Boheira, or Sergius, a Nesterian monk, who is supposed (but I do not know on what authority) to have given him some instruction in religion, and afterwards to have assisted him in the composition of his Koran. Modern Universal History,
Vol. I. p. 30.
It is not at all probable that, as is commonly supposed, he had at that time laid the plan of his imposture, and much less that of the Saracenic empire, from seeing the weakness of the Roman and Persian empires, and the divided state of the Chriftians, and of the professors of other forms of